Pearl Islands

The Archipelago around Panama – part 2.

October, 2021

Not far from Panama City on the Pacific side lie the Pearl Islands. We visited these islands several times. They are very different from the islands on the other side of the canal. The first time around, we set out from the capital before dawn to absolve the almost entire day trip in order to drop our anchor before dark.

Finally, we saw whales!

One morning our friends alerted us about a sizeable mother whale with its baby swimming in our direction. They usually are asleep at this time of day and are floating near the water’s surface. We immediately set out to try to find them. In the meantime, it started to rain. We were intently searching the water, and then there … the whale blew out the air, and its back emerged from underwater. We followed them for an hour or two as they kept resurfacing. It was an amazing experience; we had been waiting for this moment for such a long time!

These islands are treasures.

The beaches are beautiful. On the island of Mogo Mogo, for example, thousands of purple clams are on the beach. Now a bit fewer, as the girls have taken some away. There were orange ones as well. The water is shallow and warm, with schools of parrot fish swimming near the shore …

San Miguel

The largest island in the archipelago is Isla Del Ray. The largest settlement is also on this island: Saint Miguel “city.” We spent two nights on anchor outside the reef looking at this “city” with 900 inhabitants.

Domi took the kids and Lola to the beach in the afternoon. The weather had been cloudy and rainy the whole day, but finally, it stopped raining. They returned soon after as the shore was very muddy and soggy, not suitable for sunbathing. Ultimately, they swam around the boat and did some paddle boating.

Today all five of us went to explore San Miguel and show the kids how people live under these circumstances. The shore was lined with colorful fishing boats. There was a military boat and a Caterpillar backhoe driven almost halfway underwater. Large birds like pelicans and grey and white herons use it as their hang-out.

Some boats were out on the shore, the rest still in the water because of the low tide, which around here can be about 5 meters lower than the high tide mark. We pulled our boat ashore and dropped the anchor in the dry sand just to be safe. We put our sandals on and followed our self-made tour guide, a middle-sized stray dog, who showed us around. We went up a steep street with broken concrete pavement and trash on both sides. We saw that some phone booths were not hooked up at specific points. In one of them, a golden-brown doggie found refuge.

The first sight where our doggie guide left us for a while was a church. Inside, there were loads of fake flower decorations and pretty chilly temperatures. As we continued our walk, you could peek into the buildings through the open doors. Katalin thought one of the places might be a kindergarten or nursery as there were many young children inside, lots of toys, and a big mess.

Pedro Gonzales Island

November 5, 2021

We found a new anchorage today. It is an amazingly beautiful place. We are at Canvas Island.
Myriads of plankton in the water illuminate when they bump into something. The stars are shining bright, and a herd of invisible insects is feasting on us. Surrounding us are birds chirping and waterfalls cascading down with a roar from the rocks to the sea.

In the afternoon, Domi took us on a surprise trip. We started sailing upriver among mangrove trees. It was so exciting! Ferns and orchids grew out of trees, and meandering vines with colorful flowers crept up on the branches. Birds of different sizes and colors flew off the trees as they noticed us.
And then, from afar, we heard the unmistakable sound of a waterfall. There was a real stir in the boat. Is it actually going to be a waterfall behind all these hanging green leaves? We listened and tensed up to the roar, as it was growing wilder and louder with every minute. And then, in the next river bend, it appeared: the foaming water gushing down the rocks. Overjoyed, the girls wanted to get out of the boat immediately, but unfortunately, we could not find a safe anchorage.
We discovered a cute banana tree nearby with unripe fruit. Domi and Konni struggled against the elements to pick three of them off, just for the sake of adventure. When we got back, we swam some laps around our boat with the kids and then held a tea ceremony in the bow.

Due to the massive mosquito invasion, we decided not to stay one more night. We got out with the tide through the narrow, chorally path and went around Isla Del Ray from the southeast. We are heading towards Pedro Gonzales Island, where we hope to find network coverage. We can dispose of our trash as well. We also wanted to snorkel, which was supposed to be excellent here, but visibility was poor and the currents quite strong, so we gave up this idea. Scuba diving is probably the activity to do around here.

November 7, 2021
It’s been raining the whole day with lots of lightning. We are now at Pedro Gonzales Island. Yesterday the weather was gorgeous, today however everything is grey and wet. It’s not totally dark, and of course, it’s hot too.
Domi swam to shore in the afternoon and found some egglike object. It might have been a runaway turtle egg. I’ve never seen a turtle egg before. It looks like a ping-pong ball, but a bit softer and bigger. There are all sorts of fruits on the trees ashore, and we started to figure out which ones could be edible.

The last days of the year

We grew very fond of the Pearl Islands. The archipelago around Panama is a true gem of nature. We couldn’t visit everything but tried our best.
We loved the Pearl Islands so much that we spent the last day of the year here in 2021. So, in 2022, we welcomed the first day of the year here. On New Year’s Eve, after the fabulous sunset, we went over to our Canadian friends at Darwin Sound, who are on a circumnavigation with four little boys. The children played together, and we had a good chat. We were already waiting for midnight on board Teatime with champagne in hand, and small fireworks display from the nearby settlement was also visible to the children’s delight. We sang the National Anthem, then went to bed with new hopes and resolutions.